Are you reading this article when you should be doing something else? It is very likely that a deadline is looming, but you work better under pressure, right?
Excuses, excuses, that’s all you hear from the great procrastinators. A procrastinator, loves a hurdle, welcomes a problem, and takes on any excuse to deny responsibility for their actions.
When you question a procrastinator, they always have a valid reason for their actions, or inaction, and it’s never their fault. There are just many opportunities, so many distractions that can keep a procrastinator from doing the job in hand. Even when they claim they are overwhelmed with work, they will always stop for e-mails, coffee breaks, phone calls, and there’s always the internet—the greatest distraction of them all.
How do you spot a procrastinator? More often than not, they are very good at covering up their tracks. And their constant reasoning behind every action means that they do not even recognize the trait in themselves.
Procrastinators are habitual.
Procrastinators are best known for the doctrine that they can always put off until tomorrow what they didn’t do today. They will always tell you that they work best under pressure, but that’s not the case, it’s only an excuse for rushing the project and quite often missing their deadline, but still they have valid reasons. Away from the office, they send Christmas cards and birthday presents far too late, buy tickets at the last minute, let the household chores build up, but surprisingly, they will always manage to book a holiday and never miss their favorite TV show, but both of which are also an escape.
Never put your business or your key projects in the hands of a procrastinator. You will hear countless excuses why things didn’t materialize as planned. They can also cause mistrust in the work place for never admitting their mistakes and can sabotage the cooperation of a working team.
They are also the worst managers of their own life and career, which is littered with missed opportunities, hurdles to their success, and all of their own making.
What may sound like an enterprising business trait is seriously flawed when it belongs to a procrastinator, as they are habitual perfectionists, quite often fuelled by a fear of rejection. From small tasks to undertaking large projects, the fear that they may do something wrong, or may not be able to complete the work as arranged, holds them back. In fact, they will try to ignore the fact that the project is looming.
Ignorance is bliss, to the point of delusion where a procrastinator is concerned. Problems are swept under the carpet, so they don’t really exist, but if you challenge a procrastinator, they are always the optimist.
“Don’t worry; I will have your project ready on time.”
Chronic blamers, excuse makers, all of the above make the procrastinator sound like your worst business nightmare. Or worse, you could be reading about yourself! (Frankly, I was one myself some time ago…)
The answer is to take responsibility for your actions, visualize and enjoy the success of your business or project and don’t look for excuses to qualify its failures. Accepting responsibility encompasses a whole new range of skills that the procrastinator has to learn and make habit forming.
The number one skill a procrastinator needs to practice is Time Management. Using “To Do” lists and prioritizing work means that the important tasks are handled first. If projects are finished early, there is time remaining to review them, if they are finished at the last minute you may be handing over substandard work.
Set Rewards And Goals
To break the habit, procrastinators often need rewards. If you cannot bear to start work on that impending project which will take several hours or days, break the project down into smaller stages and reward yourself when you reach the end of a certain stage. Take a break, have a coffee, just don’t do those things before you start!
Own your work and have pride in what you have achieved and change your thinking from “Have To” to “Want To.” On those few occasions when you finish a project ahead of time, look back and think how great this made you feel. How much more could you enjoy your job if you had that same satisfaction all the time, and pride in the fact that you completed your work to the very best of your ability?
In taking responsibility for your actions you will also weaken the blame culture that procrastinators are well-known for. Build confidence with your colleagues and customers and achieve those results you probably imagined, but just never got round to doing.
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I guess we are all to some extend procrastinating. But I admit I always had it, and it is a tough habit to break. Indeed meditation and visualization help, but it is a slow process.
I also see that rewards and goals do help, but usually only in the short run. I keep forgetting what I planned, and then it’s off to square one.
I once tried to procrastinate, but I never got around to it.
All kidding aside Marcus, sometimes procrastination helps. Let me explain.
There are times when it appears that we need to do something. It’s not urgent, so we put it on our “to-do list”. Then it gets taken care of without our intervention, and we’re glad we didn’t ruch to do it.
So putting something off is not necessarily bad.
What IS bad is when we compulsively delay hurting ourselves and/or the people around us.
In other words, procrastination in moderation may be okay. Procrastination in excess can hold us back and ruin our relationships.
You are right about time management. It is something I’ve been focusing on more the past few weeks.
I got away from To-do lists the past few years, and it showed. Without the lists it is so easy to burn a couple hours doing nothing. To-do lists really help keep me on track.
You just reminded me that I have way too many things on my to-do-list. O_O
Breaking them down into smaller parts, going to try this method. ;)
hey, great post :)
thanks for sharing.
Hi Marcus, you have just reminded me I should be working instead of reading this post :-D
I do enjoy reading your posts (excuse #1)
I’m tired at this point of the day (excuse #2)
I’ll get the work done tomorrow (excuse #3)
I think I could be sorted as a mix of avoider, perfectionist and optimist, but as usually happens, life is a bit more complex than any case study. I do enjoy working under pressure (i feel it as a challenge) and I can work (and have worked) 24 to 36 hours non-stop.
I always like to say that I’m not a procrastinator but a heavy inertial body, I mean, it takes me a lot of effort to change from one status to another. If I’m relaxing it’s hard to start working, and when I’m working it’s hard to stop and relax, I usually stop when I’m too tired to follow.
I acknowledge that that’s not good, and I have even gone through some auto-hypnosis sessions to improve this aspect of my behaviour, but with not much success. Maybe I should just accept the way I am, I could have done better, but anyway I’ve managed to do quite good on life the way I am.
Hey what the… did you activate my webcam?
Thank you very much all.
I myself had (and sometimes still have!) to avoid procrastination. It’s so easy to get side tracked. (Even I have an awfully boring yet important task on my list that sits there for months!) But once you “crack the code” and just get things done it’s such a relief.
After all, they need to be done anyway. Either you do it or you delegate so someone else does it. Especially those tedious, administrative tasks are the ones holding us back most of the time, right?
And Larry, what you describe is something I experience from time to time as well. There is something I really need to do, but it suddenly got somehow magically solved. :-)
And Anthony, I am myself a guy who used to love “all-nighters.” It felt good to be demanded by someone, or to give other people the impression you work really, really hard and through the night.
Nowadays though, I find it actually hurts not only yourself and your family but the client or company you work for/with, too. Your productivity and concentration suffers, and sooner or later you’re burned out.
I am aiming for freedom. (A topic for another post. ;-)
I’m a procrastinator… I’m procrastinating at the current moment. I should be editing a website and adding more content to my site.
I highly dislike this post because it describes me too well, especially my ability at covering my tracks of procrastination. Of course, by saying that, I am saying that I highly dislike myself for the bad habit of procrastination.
I am a heavy avoider and perfectionist, and have some projects sitting around half-finished or never started because either I wanted them to be perfect or just keep waiting for that one opportune moment or idea to get me started on them.
Thanks for the wakeup call.
Great article on procrastination Marcus, the first sentence really hit me. Haha. Anyway, just couldn’t resist to comment.
*goes back to work and logs out of Bloglines
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[…] that sound familiar to you? Last month I read a great post written by Marcus Hochstadt about procrastination and even left a comment on his […]
Read the post and thought… yeah… sometimes I am like that. But hey, aren’t the majority of people? At least half of all the responses above this one say “yes, I am a procrastinator”.
The interesting thing is that I am like that only if I don’t want to do the stuff I need to. If it’s something that I’d like to do, no way I’m going to delay it under the pretence reason.
And also, guess what, there’s a good site in the procrastination too. Sometimes things to do just go away themselves. The circumstances change and suddenly the thing you thought you need to do is no longer there. I like when this happens.